Working with hospitality companies over the years has taught our team to always expect the unexpected; regarding ideas, opinions, egos and random thoughts on the way a program or project might unfold, regardless of what it is supposed to work like on paper.
Try as we might, and we do, to keep the development process moving forward, sometimes it gets sidetracked. We typically set up outlines and overviews to remind the project team of what our end goal is supposed to be, regardless of the stops and starts, opinions and sometime tantrums of individuals on the project team. We coined the term, ‘Dream Period’ decades ago so that we didn’t hamper the thought and creative process of the team and everyone involved and would always look for the best option or solution for the program. Many times we travel with clients and other project professionals and always kept an open mind to their ideas and ideals, along with a good dose of humility, when we realize that everything has a place and time, not necessarily all together though.
In my recent business travels I was fortunate to visit several different hotels in Europe, all with different levels of service and hospitality. Being familiar with many different brands, their standards and the competitive set was helpful in realizing if a hotel was living up to their potential, through their product and room offering, or not. Many hotel brands like to talk and advertise about their benefits, but sometimes the program that sounds good on paper, is less desirable and effective in the actual guest experience.
The hotels of this particular brand of which I stayed at on several nights, lacked consistency and vigor; from the check-in process to the guest and room experience, there was no esprit de corps with the service aspect or the food and beverage programs. When asked about my experiences by my associates, I could only think of what could have been, and how it could be improved, with some forward thinking, attention to the details, putting oneself in the guest’s position and offering the type of experience that is advertised by the brand and the actual lack of value for the price being paid.
I was most interested to stay in a competitive and a new hotel concept which exemplified an ‘Outside of the Box’ experience. From the check-in, room product, food and beverage program and service standards, it was nothing like I have ever experienced in the past. I had heard about this particular hotel, and wanted to visit and learn all about the operation as it had been recommended to me by an associate, who gave it high marks for delivery on the product promise. From a friendly welcome by a staff member to individual access to a central kiosk that controlled the entire property via touch screen computer, I was able to either be anonymous, or enjoy the human touch of the experience. The computer gave me a choice of rooms, view, etc. and even offered up city and dining recommendations, along with identifying my charges and pre-paying breakfast options. My room was as advertised, more like a cabin on a mid-level cruise ship that fit my expectations and gave me the necessary creature comforts that most business and leisure travelers are looking for; cleanliness, safety, Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, great bed and comforter, etc.
The food & beverage operation which functioned more like a free-standing restaurant was a gathering space for hotel and outside guests, that had a central bar counter, that was the turnstile of the concept. During the main part of the day and evening it was a combination of self service and ‘grab & go’ with staff assistance and in the morning the breakfast offering was with a Full English Breakfast or choice of a la carte.
There were various different seating experiences from the Living Room to the Lounge area. The entire hotel and food & beverage operation at any given time of day was controlled by a staff of three ‘Ambassadors’ that could manage the property and attend to guests’ needs and requests. The hotel didn’t have the traditional barriers that we sometimes see in some hotel operations, but certainly excelled on hospitality and product; just thinking and going about it in a different way than some might be used to doing things. Interesting, was that I found out that the majority of the staff was chosen for their attitude versus their previous job experience, as I was told, “you can’t teach a person to be happy and/or helpful” they either have it or they don’t.
After what must have seemed too many questions, I found out the person who was serving me my late night glass of wine, was considered the hotel manager or ‘Main Ambassador’ although he blanched at being named the person in charge. He explained that the hotel was like a home away from home for most guests and that was the appeal, which they realized that people would be happy with a friendly personal experience, fewer choices and rules and more about hospitality than too much structure. Each Ambassador was cross trained in all areas and aspects of the hotel, from making a bed to assisting and servicing a guests needs, each task was equal in the total guest experience and satisfaction. It seems that my questions and comments were no different than most, first timer guests to the hotel, although I was told the next morning at breakfast by another Ambassador that many of the return guests become members of the family and look at the concept as coming to a friends home for a visit, or as she said just throwing away those preconceived notions of what should be and ‘Thinking Outside of the Box’.